In 1993, when he was well-regarded by the top people at CBS, correspondent Bernard Goldberg recommended exploring both sides of the liberal bias debate for the prime time magazine Eye to Eye. According to Goldberg, "the report I envisioned would be fair and balanced, just the way the news was supposed to be at CBS....We do stories about everything else, about every other institution in America; why not a story about ourselves?"
Talk about trying to float a lead balloon: "A few days later, [the show's Executive Producer Andrew] Heyward came back with the answer....I could do the story, he said, 'but you can't ask Dan any tough questions.'" The Dan in question was, of course, CBS anchor Dan Rather. Goldberg refused to accept "these ridiculous restrictions," which would have been intolerable to CBS had the interview subject been anyone else - anyone outside CBS News, that is.
This 1993 encounter should have alerted Goldberg to the furious CBS reaction that greeted an op-ed he wrote three years later for the Wall Street Journal, which accurately fingered a CBS Evening News story by Eric Engberg as emblematic of the liberal bias permeating the elite media. "Mr. Engberg's report set new standards for bias," Goldberg stated in his op-ed. He then proved his assertion with a point-by-point review of Engberg's sarcastic and one-sided "Reality Check."
As he recounted in his new book, Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News, Goldberg's bosses weren't interested in reprimanding Engberg for his biased story or in fixing the system so that CBS's news would be more balanced. Instead, Goldberg found his job in jeopardy and his motives being questioned by CBS colleagues who refused to speak with him.
"People are just stunned. It's just such a wacky charge, and a weird way to go about it," CBS's Bob Schieffer told the Washington Post at the time. "I don't know what Bernie was driving at. It just sounds bizarre." Goldberg explained that he made his complaints public only after no one in authority would acknowledge that CBS's liberal bias was a problem. Reading Schieffer's dismissive quote in the Post, Goldberg realized CBS was still in denial: "Wacky? Weird? Bizarre? What I found wacky, weird, and bizarre was that the chief Washington CBS News correspondent found absolutely nothing wrong with Engberg's piece."
Goldberg was immediately removed from Dan Rather's Evening News, and Rather hasn't spoken a word to his former friend since 1996. Denied an assignment on 60 Minutes II in 1998, Goldberg agreed to leave CBS on the day he became eligible for his pension.
"I would have been thrilled if New York Times columnist Anthony Lewis, who is so sensitive to all sorts of 'chilling effects,' had shown just a little sensitivity to the plight of a reporter whose job was hanging by a thread because he wasn't diplomatic, because he actually had the nerve to publicly express an unpopular view about - oh my God! - the press," Goldberg wrote. "Liberals in the media - who would have come down with the vapors if a conservative CEO had so much as given a reporter a dirty look - didn't flinch when CBS News executives took me off the air and suggested I might be fired because they saw me as a whistle-blower."
"If I had worked at Firestone and blown the whistle on defective tires, 60 Minutes would have immortalized me," Goldberg rued. "Unfortunately, the defective product I was making noise about wasn't tires, it was network news."
Over the past 14 years, the Media Research Center compiled a mountain of evidence proving the liberal bias that has degraded the networks' reputations, and Goldberg offered his own examples. But what his book uniquely adds is damning insight into the utter contempt network chiefs have for those who dare to complain about their flawed product. - Rich Noyes